Friday, April 03, 2015

What Do We Make of These Three Days?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Every year we approach this liturgical season with the piety of good intentions. We commit ourselves to focusing on Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection, the death we undergo in him as we take up our cross in discipleship, the new life we live in the Spirit as he breathes in us the joy of resurrection.

Somewhere along the way, the distractions of life draw us away from a focus on Christ. There is yet one more ridiculous thing a politician said today. There is just one more annoyance of our neighbor, worth gossiping about to someone else. There is just one more item on our to-do list, causing great anxiety. There is just one more social injustice we have failed to address.

We commit ourselves to Holy Week and the Three Days (the Triduum) not because liturgical observances will guarantee greater faith, or automatically alleviate and transform our natures, prone as they are to distraction. Instead, we commit ourselves to this pattern of worship so that our time might be shaped, at least for a little while and in spite of the distractions, around God's time rather than our own.

We also know that our faith in Christ is never detached from the life of the world. There is not our faith over here, in this corner, and our life, over there in the other corner. There is not our life in God, and our life in the world, separated by a veil. Instead, these things are intimately woven together.

This week, I have come across some reflections that especially signify this intermingling. First, and so very poignant, is the primate of Kenya's Easter letter after the Garrissa University attacks. This is Easter faith staring the darkness of death down, and overcoming it in hope.

There is also this meditation on why we call Friday good, and why we venerate the cross and include it in our worship practices.

There is this poem, shared by a colleague and friend and pastor in Manhattan, Heidi Neumark:

Because for our sake you tasted gall, 
may the Enemy’s bitterness be killed in us.
Because for our sake you drank sour wine, 
may what is weak in us be strengthened.
Because for our sake you were spat upon, 
may we be bathed in the dew of immortality.
Because for our sake you were struck with a rod,
may we receive shelter in the last.
Because for our sake you accepted a crown of thorns,
may we that love you be crowned with garlands that never can fade.
Because for our sake you were wrapped in a shroud,
may we be clothed in your all-enfolding strength.
Because you were laid in the new grave and the tomb,
may we receive renewal of soul and body.
Because you rose and returned to life,
may we be brought to life again. 5th century hymn

Finally, as we remember again in the middle of Good Friday these hours when our Lord was crucified and died, we also anticipate that Saturday, where strangely Christ remained dead, descended to hell, and proclaimed the gospel there. Jesus went even to hell, one of the weirdest yet most promising aspects of this three day story.

I certainly can't make Holy Week anymore profound than it already is, definitely not in this blog post. But I can signal a few resources to deepen the experience of it. After gathering for worship with others, this can be one of the ways to mark this time, to deepen our understanding of the days by shifting our reading of the news to reading meditations on the good news.

Blessings to each of you, and see you in prayer, hoping for the resurrection light,


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